Thursday, July 19, 2012

Video: Guergis v. Harper heads to court - The Globe and Mail

Yet another example of really bad reporting:

Video: Guergis v. Harper heads to court - The Globe and Mail:

At one point the anchor asks the report "just between us, is this going to get juicy?" By which, he meant, are we doing to hear about backroom conversations?

There is an important story here and the story is about how the Harper Conservatives have gone about politically organizing a new "governing party" (aka, historic bloc). A responsible journalist, for instance, could explore the types of politics that functioned in the first decade of the twenty-first century to put together a political machine that could take and hold power. What does it entail, for instance, in terms of "dirty tricks?" What does it entail in terms of PR? Who is the CPC willing to sacrifice and why on their road to electoral victory?

We already know a big part of this story. We know, for instance, that governing coalitions are forged through a variety of means, one of which is only tangentially democracy. We know -- and the long run of the Liberal Party in power demonstrated this -- that victory went to the largest minority; not the majority. We know (and knew) that not all constituents are created equal (political parties focus on some voters -- middle class, university educated, say -- and ignore others -- say, youth or regions where their base support is limited). We know that governments -- despite their rhetoric -- do not govern in the interests of "all Canadians" but that governing in the national interest usually means specific things (such as, for the CPC, the transfer of resources from the poor -- via cuts to the welfare state -- to the military) that reflect specific visions of the country and its future.

What this trial might show us is that governing is not about a soap opera. It is not about "juicy" details in the manner of a daytime drama, but about how a party functions under the light of public scrutiny: who is expendable and why? And, we might learn how they will defend themselves from attacks from within their own ranks. What prompts those attacks (Guergis is, by all accounts, a loyal conservative)? Harper's defence, for instance, is really interesting if teamed with the drama going on regarding voting irregularities in a variety of riding in Canada and the arguments before the supreme court.

In effect, the CPC has argued that the rule of law is not all that important. An election was held and this is the "people speaking"  and whether or not the people spoke or it was rigged does not seem to matter. Once the people speak (even if the people who spoke did so illegally and tricked others so they could not speak), the die is cast and the courts should not become involved even if the law was broken.

This is, in my view, a very interesting position from a government the styles itself as a law and order government. To argue that violations of the law are not important is, surely, a contradiction from those people who want to build superprisons. For the record, I would argue that the rule of law is a characteristic of democracy, not something that stands in opposition to it.

In Guergis case we have another interesting contradiction. Harper, coming out of a Reform background that urged decentralization and constituent control, is arguing that the PM alone has the right to determine who runs for the party.  This might be the way things actually function. I have no doubt it is. But, surely, the populism on which Harper supposedly cut his political teeth demands a different type of response. It demands at least the pretence that local riding associations have some say in who runs under their banner. The fact that Harper and crew do not feel compelled to even make this pretence, say, I think, something about their mounting confidence in office and this begs another set of questions that swift journalist (one more interesting in public good and the operation of power in society then "juicy" details) might ask. Why are is the CPC confident? Do they have reason to be? Should the lingering Reformers in the CPC not be "called" on this issue since they once stood for the polar opposite of what they claim to now stand for?

Alas ... mainstream Canadian journalism being what it is, I suspect we will get no answers to these questions but a lot of "juicy" details, perhaps even descriptions of what people wore to court.
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